WESTBROOK — The clatter of mah-jongg tiles, the sweet smell of steaming vegetable and pork dumplings and the sound of occasional snatches of Mandarin transformed Westbrook Middle School into Maine’s own Chinatown on Saturday.

More than 1,000 people, many with ties to China, showed up to celebrate the Year of the Dragon, setting a new record at the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine’s annual Chinese New Year celebration. The Year of the Dragon is considered the luckiest in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle, which may have contributed to the crowd’s festive mood.

Attendees were treated to the association’s Chinese School dance performance featuring dozens of colorfully costumed children, from toddler size and up, a talk by former gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler and others on business and educational exchanges between Maine and China, and tables of arts and crafts demonstrations.

People traveled from across New England to attend the celebration, which is designed to promote Chinese culture, said Patti Oldmixon, chairwoman. She said the celebration continues to grow every year.

“I love the dumplings,” said Catie Cough, 10, of Portland.

Catie, whose mother, Barbara Cough, adopted her and her sister, Kimberly, 8, from China, said she is a regular at the event.


For Sally Li, 16, an exchange student from China spending the year attending Waynflete School in Portland, the event brought on a bout of homesickness for the New Year’s celebrations taking place back home.

“It’s a time of family reunion, great dinners and eating fish,” said Li.

But she said the Westbrook celebration gave her the chance to show others how to do Chinese calligraphy and get a sense of the Chinese community in Maine.

Dawn Ng of Portland led around her twin daughters, Naila and Isis, 3, all three talking in Mandarin.

“I brought them to see the show. It is amazing,” said Ng.

Mai Luu, 8, and her sister, Katie, 12, of Auburn were escorted to the event by a family friend, Cindy Larock of Lewiston, while their parents were busy running their family restaurant, Wei-Li.


“I like the Chinese New Year because I get money,” said Mai.

Families with children adopted from China and other Asian countries traveled hours to take part. Brian and Michelle Shaw, with their daughters, Mia, 4, and Alicia, 21 months, drove down from Mount Desert.

“We want them to experience Asian culture,” said Michelle Shaw.

Nancy White drove from Blue Hill with her daughters, Sylvia, 9, Lili, 3, and a niece, all adopted from China. She said there is an effort under way in Ellsworth to open a school similar to the Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine’s Chinese School in Portland, which offers language, dance, art and other classes.

“We have American-born Chinese, ex-pats and adoptees,” said White.

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.